I wrote a post a year ago about being single and now I want to dispel the false stereotype of being unmarried in my 30s.
When I was 28-29, I was in a serious relationship. It was a difficult relationship with confusing messages and mixed signals. My then boyfriend and I traveled to interesting places, ate at gourmet restaurants, went to many college football and basketball games (locally and on the road), and watched many of the same television shows. Despite all that, we didn’t connect deeply, either emotionally or physically.
One thing I didn’t get out of this relationship was marriage.
At the time, I was deeply concerned about getting married. Most of my friends were in long-term relationships, discussing engagement rings or actually walking down the aisle (and I was attending or involved in the weddings). This timely trend caught me and I suddenly really wanted to get married. It became my sole mission in the relationship. You see, when I was turning thirty, I envisioned myself on a rocky cliff and saw myself falling from it on my birthday if I wasn’t engaged. It seemed to me that one’s 20s were supposed to be for dating and one’s 30s were supposed to be for marriage, then kids. Well, I turned 30 and didn’t fall. But I had a lot of work to do.
Turns out, I talked about marriage often. I didn’t have the awareness at the time that it was too much until my then boyfriend and I went to couples’ therapy, where he revealed feeling pressured. So I made a deal: I wouldn’t talk about marriage for six weeks and I’d be cool and normal in the relationship. My boyfriend agreed to “have more fun.” Surprisingly, this worked well for both of us.
I had developed some new awareness about myself and realized the reasons I’d been talking about marriage so much was
- a) because it was something all around me and I wanted to fit in
- b) I wanted to know where the boyfriend and I stood
- c) experiential. It was an experience I wanted in my life
- d) talking about marriage was the easier way, in my mind, to discussing “us.”
The therapy stopped, but we didn’t break up with each other for another year and a half. We also didn’t get engaged or married and continued on this unraveling trajectory of a relationship.
When we finally ended our relationship, I did a lot more soul-searching and considered the questions of marriage again. Still, it was something I wanted in my life, but it wasn’t the only thing. I serial dated for a while and had various boyfriends at different levels of intimacy. One boyfriend presented me with an opportunity for an open relationship and promised marriage in 5-10 years. No thanks. One of my boyfriends was so skittish with the word “boyfriend” that I realized we were not even on the same planet and we broke up. Another boyfriend and I never talked about marriage until the day we parted ways and he told me he thought we’d get married.
* * *
So here I am, a woman in Los Angeles, in her late thirties who is still single, unmarried and, ahem, content. One of my close friends and I have discussed this concept many times. We both know women in their 50s and 60s who are not married. When I was in my teens and 20s, I felt so much pity for them. I thought they were lonely spinsters who were still vying for the affections of men. Shame on me.
When I reflect on how I viewed unmarried women, I am so ashamed. I’m one of them. Whoa, it’s a big realization to adjust my thinking and not separate them from me. It’s a we, us now.
Now I see us as strong, independent people who make a choice about how we spend our time, money and hearts. In other words, these women (and men) who’ve opted to wait or have chosen not to get married have made incredible life choices.
These bad ass people have traveled the globe, have been involved in start-ups and amazing careers and have enjoyed extended families and connected circles of friends. All of this means they have chosen freedom and independence. Being unmarried also does not mean we have not had relationships. Many people have been in long partnerships, but haven’t consummated their unions with paperwork, rings or veils.
Overall, I see marriage as a lovely choice for many and a stifling contract for others. How do I feel? Truth be told, and for years I was ashamed to admit this, I want to be married in my lifetime. There, I said it and didn’t dissolve. (I have had bouts of embarrassment when admitting that I’d like to be married.) Marriage is something I want for myself and I’m willing to wait for the right person who feels the same.
Another aspect to why I’m not married (and I covered this in my piece entitled “Why Are You STILL Single?”) is I haven’t met the right person to marry yet.
Do I worry I’ll be alone for the rest of my life? Of course. To put it boldly, there have been days I wish I had a husband, and not a boyfriend, roommate or best friend, to discuss matters big and small. The thought of “will I be alone forever?” has crossed my mind more times than I care to count. It shows up especially when I see couples engaging with a decision and realizing they have each other. It also shows up when I fantasize about a type of relationship I long for.
So, why have I waited? Well, mostly because I haven’t wanted to marry the wrong person and many of my relationships haven’t been intimate enough for marriage. I have big fears about divorce and what that means (failure, rejection, bad choices, timing and willingness and simply growing apart). Some of my friends have split up and remarried. They report the dissolution of their marriages as angering, challenging, sad, feeling rejection, etc., etc. Yet, I also see them growing from divorce (though this is trite because we grow from all of our experiences).
I’ve considered settling, but I don’t have the constitution for that. It never works for me to “grin and bear it.” So, “single, dating, seeing someone, in a relationship” is the land where I’ve resided. There have been struggles big and small over the fact that I’m unmarried. Just when I feel I’ve made headway about my own unmarried life, insecurities or another negative thought may crop up.
So what do I do? Well, I used to panic and have tearful sessions with my coach. Now, I’m more detached. I have an unwavering belief that my person is coming. Do I feel impatient? Often, yes. But impatience doesn’t get me far. Do I ever feel insecure or sad that I’m alone or unmarried? Yes. I have had thoughts of being too much of this and not enough of that. The self-doubt gets intense in these moments.
How do I handle those moments? I consult with a few trusted sources (like my coach, who’s expressed that this is normal and she also felt this way). I may cry or complain. I do more yoga or go for a run. Then, I pause to breathe and remember what I do have. The gratitude holds me over until the next time. And I’m okay.
To work through dating and marriage questions, please contact me. Here are a few other pieces you may want to read: (Communication With) Men, How Long Does It Take to Fall In Love? and Nighttime anxiety.
22 thoughts on “Why I’ve Waited”
Nina, during our sessions, you quite perceptively noticed a habit of mine and helped me make a crucial change by showing me how to re-wire my mindset by changing my words, swapping out the word ‘but’ for ‘and’. It was just a quick conversation we had, but parts of this post remind me a lot of those moments. Why have we so often told ourselves we are happy but single, content but single. Why have we viewed others through that same lens? Why not happy and single? How have so many of us allowed ‘but single’ to define our joy and our identities? Although I’m currently in a solid relationship, I haven’t forgotten how much and/but applied to re-thinking my relationship status, and how I am able to apply that same technique to many different challenges.
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Rachel, what an amazing insight! I’m delighted to ready your comments! I’ve been in various relationships that’s have all worked out. None have led to marriage AND they’ve all taught me something. I hope your relationship is going well and I’m proud you’re taking some of our work with you!
To Nina, A forthright post and reasonably thought about. Here is to encountering the person you would find “right”. R. Louis
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I have been married, as you know. I loved so many things about being married. I’m not sure I’ll ever want it again (the legal ramifications are scary) but I also yearn for a long-lasting, fulfilling, and deeply emotional relationship.
Sometimes I wonder if it just won’t happen… and I’m tired of waiting. As I’ve said before, I might not be cut out for it anyway. I’m enjoying what I currently have, i.e. a relationship that’s fun, intense, and emotionally comfortable for me. 🙂
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I guess my question to you is do you not feel like you’re in a long-lasting, fulfilling and deeply emotional relationship? Is a long-lasting one only the type if you look back after 6+ years and realize “hey! I’m
In a long-term relationship?!”
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My current relationship with Hayden is fulfilling but not necessarily deeply emotional.
But I’m not sure something deeply emotional is A) Something I can handle right now, and 2) Even possible.
It’s a tough predicament. I don’t know if I what I ultimately want even exists. I’ve never had it before and I’m no spring chicken.
I wonder if this is as good as it gets. I’m not complaining! I just don’t know if more is realistic.
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You raise an interesting point about possibility and realism. Also the thought that a relationship can be fulfilling even if not deeply emotional. I’ve had that before also. And then I’ve grown closer to my friends for emotional support and it’s been okay because the needs were being met.
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It’s really interesting to hear it said back to me like that. Haha.
But, yes, even though my relationship with Hayden isn’t emotionally deep, it is fulfilling. We have so much fun together. And I have to remember that the relationship probably isn’t riddled with issues *because* it’s not emotionally intense. I had emotional intensity during my relationship with Tex and it was a big of a nightmare.
I think I’m getting my emotional needs met by spilling my thoughts on this blog, frankly. Hahahaha!
There you go. Our blogs provide a lot more than entertainment.
[…] To talk and figure things out, please learn more about my Coaching. Here’s my last post, as well: Why I’ve Waited. […]
From my 51 yr old perspective, I’d say ‘just enjoy the ride’. Lovers will come and go, & you will learn from each of them. A big issue is children of course… I had my son at age 34 and I wasn’t married. Now his Dad and I share him fortnight on/off. If you check my blog, you’ll see I’ve recently fallen in love with someone I met online: go online! It’s taken a while… My Dad said he didn’t fall in love till he was 60… be thankful you have good friends of both genders for emotional intimacy, and enjoy them. I very much respect your reflections and honesty, thank you for sharing, gabrielle in Australia 😊
I wonder how your family feels about this though. Before you answer, “are you living your life for you, or for them?”, I ask you consider that in more tight-knit families / communal cultures, being an outlier isn’t just frowned upon, it can make you a pariah with the people who you’ve been raised to value most. I don’t know if your viewpoint would work for everybody.
I’m certain my viewpoint wouldn’t work for everybody. I think communities and cultures who are more traditional, communal or have a certain set of expectations require a different set of questions. I can’t claim to know other people’s circumstances.
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[…] through mistakes and into success. Learn more about me here. Other blog posts you might like: Why I’ve Waited, You Need A Coach and Putting Myself Out […]
First time exposed to your beautiful blog!
I read your writing here and your are so open about your wants and experiences. I would like to share my feeling reading your words and maybe an insight.
I am in a cross road now and it is hard to choose as I guess I am not that ready to choose.
My insight of marriage after my life experience is that Marriage is a choice you make regardless to the right person. It is a choice to give up on some freedoms, it is a choice for a family (even less freedom) it is a choice for getting and giving commitment. Then anyone with that choice is almost the right person.
Thank you for this post I enjoyed reading it.
Thank you so much for sharing your words of gratitude and insight! I’m not sure marriage is the only decision. Perhaps it’s also enough to be committed. Of course, this is a personal decision between two people. I think we receive and we give up equally but in different sides of the coin. Determining who is the right person has been one of my biggest challenges… still looking.
Thank you again!
So here I sit married and I would say contently. I didn’t settle, but even though my marriage is strong I have often had feelings that “if” it ended I would be ok and I would still find happiness. I know that might sound weird that I have ever thought this way, but I was mid-thirties when I got married and had lived in LA since my early 20’s on my own. I am grateful I found a good companion and we “fit” well…oh and I do happen to love him. I just wanted you to know that I completely get and understand your feelings. I get you! I also want to add that if you find the right person that keeping the “YOU” of yourself intact is so healthy. I loved this post and I hope many can feel better about being single and happy after reading it!
Oh thank you, Rayna. I think you know that I really would love to be married to the right person one day. Thus far, he’s been more elusive than a clouded leopard! I guess I could have settled multiple times but that’s not in my character. I believe that when people realize they’d be okay on their own, that’s when their relationships get real and much better. The element of individuality is what makes us interesting and attractive, NOT codependency. You and your companion have a great thing going. I’m glad you found each other. And to be sure: I don’t think we are ever too old, broken, set in our ways, etc for love.
Is one of the reasons why it’s hard to have a relationship with a woman because they, like you, are okay with not being married? Is it because women don’t need a man to live a full and purposeful life? Am I just not needed to a woman? Do I even know how to love a woman and give her what she needs? Can I add anything to a woman with being married? These are just some of the questions I struggle with dating in my 40’s. You don’t NEED a man that’s for sure but do you WANT to be with a man and have a marriage? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. That may be why I am still single. Great article though. It has me thinking.
Thadd, I so appreciate your comments. I DO want to be married. Very much so. I just haven’t met my husband yet. I don’t think I’m meant to be alone (and think most people fare far better in the world with communities of family, friends, neighborhoods, coworkers). I’ve cried and been frustrated for years that my relationships haven’t led to marriage for myriad reasons. Not to say I didn’t learn something, but they didn’t result in marriage. And I also feel protective of my heart so I want to meet the best match for me so we hopefully don’t divorce. I don’t think anyone NEEDS anyone, but we want to connect and feel loved and be loved. We want to be included and be part of something. I’m sorry if my essay read like I don’t want to be married. I do.
I am glad that you do want to get married. Your essay didn’t sound like you didn’t and I didn’t take it that way. I just meant that some are okay with not getting married and marriage isn’t for everyone. You are a jewel. Someone will see that.